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One album wonders: World of Twist's Quality Street

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 24, 2014 08:00am | Post a Comment
WORLD OF TWIST - QUALITY STREET (1991)

World of Twist
are one of the greatest one album wonders, on par with The La’s and The Sex Pistols — if unfortunately much more obscure than either. Although they’ve been broken up for more than twenty years, their cult still remains small although it seems inevitable that they will some day be granted the adoration which they so deserve. It seems only a matter of time before an excellent documentary on them screens at Don’t Knock the Rock or appears on video. 




As with many one album wonders, though not prolific as recording artists, the World of Twist’s members were involved in music for many years. From 1977-1979, Dave Conner (vocals), Gordon King (bass), James Fry (guitar), Julia Adamson (guitar), and Tony Ogden (drums) played in a punk band called The Blackout when all were art students in Art & Design at Stockport College in Greater Manchester.

Around 1982, King and Fry followed the latter’s older brother, Martin (of ABC) to Sheffield, then one of the most musically interesting cities in the UK (see Made in Sheffield). Over the next few years the line-up grew to included Ogden, Andy Robins (synthesizer), and Rory Connolly (saxophone). After Robins quit they were joined by Andrew Hobson (bass) and Nick Philips (organ) and by 1984/’85 they had a repertoire of about a dozen songs which they recorded as demos. Three songs from 1985 were released in 1992 after World of Twist had split up.

World of Twist - "The Sausage" (1985)

As the Sheffield scene grew increasingly predictable and homogeneous, solidified around bleak, industrial post-punk sound, World of Twist were increasingly and defiantly at odds. They opened started a club, The Wigwam, at which aimed to meld Northern Soul vibes with the aesthetic of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Aside from Julian Cope and Dexys Midnight Runners, they weren't just out-of-step with Sheffield, but music of the era. 

In 1988 the band gave up on Sheffield and Hobson, King, and Ogden moved to Manchester where they shared a house with Martin Wright of Laugh. Fry moved to London to pursue photography and Ogden took over vocals. New members of World of Twist included Alan “Adge” Frost on synthesizers and visual effects, Julia “MC Shells” McGreechin on “swirls and sea noises,” and Angela Reilly on visual effects. Before long, Nick Sanderson (formely of Sheffield’s Clock DVA and later, Los Angeles’s The Gun Club) came along to fill Ogden’s vacant drum kit.



World of Twist gained attention in part for their live show, inspired by that of The Residents and progressive rock bands and which included an elaborate set pieces and effects. Their live show was described by various writers as “a dry ice fantasia” and “ a mesmerizing mix of Bacofoil, ancient technology, and Brylcreem” but because they were danceable, based in Manchester, and this was the late 1980s, that World of Twist were to be lazily lumped in with the Madchester/Baggy scene was inevitable. In reality, only fellow pastichists Happy Mondays approached the breadth of World of Twist’s bricolage, drawn as it apparently was from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, bubblegum, Detroit proto-punk, glitter rock, Joe Meek, Krautrock, mod, and space rock


A series of demos were recorded at the beginning of 1990 but the only label which showed interest was Virgin subsidiary Circa — then known for sort of adult alternative and sophisti-pop bands like Hue & Cry, Neneh Cherry, Julia Fordham, and Millions Like Us but as with all majors, Virgin were eager to sign a band from Manchester, which they did with World of Twist. In August, World of Twist sold out Manchester’s International 1. On 22 September, the newly-signed band recorded a Mark Goodier Session at Studio 5 in London.


World of Twists’s debut single, “The Storm,” was released 15 November, 1990. It was famed producer Martin Hannett’s last production work — he died in April 1991 of heart failure brought on by obesity and drug abuse. The band made their national television debut on Channel 4’s The Word. Guest Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood described them as great and likened them to "The Velvet Underground on acid." On the other hand, when it was reviewed on BBC's Juke Box Jury, a bit normal guest Bernard Sumner derided them as "a bit 'we are weird'." 




Although hotly tipped and huge at home, “The Storm” failed to connect outside the north and only reached #42 in the charts. On 23 December they sold out the Manchester Ritz, supported by Laugh, who’d recently changed their name to Intastella.

By the spring of 1991 World of Twist’s fame had grown sufficiently to the point that they sold out the London Astoria on 27 March, 1991 — supported by Saint Etienne (whose then-new singer, Sarah Cracknell made her live debut with them that night) and Sensurround. On 29 December, World of Twist returned to Sheffield for a homecoming band, supported by another band who’d left Sheffield in 1988, Pulp. Five recorded songs from the show were shown on Granada. On 25 June, they recorded a Peel Session



Music writer Simon Reynolds summed up World of Twist’s sound as “kitsch-adelia” but their next single, albeit again seemingly delivered with tongue-in-cheek, was the stomping "Sons of the Stage,” released the same month they again played The Leadmill again with Pulp, the then growing increasingly kitschadelic themselves. 


On 30 September, 1991, the World of Twist released the “Sweets,” dripping with saccharine  and ironically promoted with packs of cigarettes. The two singles did less well than "The Storm," climbing only to #47 and #58, respectively. Still the band were earning themselves fans, sometimes in high places.

Saint Etienne’s debut, Foxbase Alpha, was released the same month as "Sweets" and the lyrics of “London Belongs to Me” included the lines:
To the sound of the World Of Twist
You leant over and gave me a kiss
It's too warm to even hold hands
But that won't stop us from making plans

Likewise, Noel and Liam Gallagher were so enamored of World of Twist that they considered naming their dadchester band Sons of the Stage before settling on Oasis. They also used World of Twist's James Fry as their photographer and Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye went so far as to record an unremarkable World of Twist cover. 


Tony Ogden (image source: Die Rache)

What was to be World of Twist’s only album, Quality Street, was released on 28 October, 1991. It included a cover of The Honeycombs“This Too Shall Pass Away” and nine, single-quality originals. However, the mixing and production of the original release were problematic. In a 2005 interview with The Guardian, Ogden claimed, “We spent £250,000 making an album with the smallest bollocks in pop history.” (A 2013 re-issue does wonders in correcting the mix and adds a disc of extras.) Quality Street only reached #50 in the charts (which were then populated with artists like Amy Grant, Bryan Adams, Roxette, and Seal) and their label dropped them. They had a meeting with Alan McGee and seemed like an excellent fit at Creation, but they didn’t sign. Ogden had let it be known that he no longer wished to sing or appear on stage.

NME announced World of Twist’s split in the 27 June, 1992 issue. Ogden became something of a recluse, moving back to his parents’ home in Stockport. He continued to write music as a solo artist (listen here) and later, as Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion, who released the digital EP Escape in the Love Machines in 2005. Ogden also collaborated with Mum & Dad on 2000’s “Dawn Rider.” Fy, King, and Sanderson continued to perform together in a new band, Earl Brutus. The Pre New are comprises of Fry, King, Laurence Bray, Stuart Boreman, Stuart Wheldon, and Vincent Gibson.

Although World of Twist failed to top the charts or even record a second album, their influence could be heard several bands and scenes that followed. In 1992, the British music press tried to make a thing out of the so-called Glam Revival (The Auteurs, Denim, and Suede). In 1993 they pushed the junk-shop retro-futurist Crimplene Scene (Pulp and Saint Etienne). The more interesting bands of Britpop combined influences drawn from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ’80s. In 1995, Romo briefly attempted to correct for New Lad with some New Romantic revivalism. In 1997, U2's the sound and video of "Discothèque" suggested that the Irish veterans had discovered World of Twist.

Ogden died suddenly, at the age of 44, in 2006. Sanderson died after a long struggle with lung and lymphoid cancer on 8 June, 2008. According to his obituary, his idea of heaven was driving a train whilst listening to Steve Hackett’s Spectral Morning. In 2009, artist Jeremy Deller created a piece, Procession, which included a “We Miss the World of Twist” float. In 2012, Saint Etienne again sang about World of Twist in their song, “Over the Border,” which recounts a break-in to Peter Gabriel’s house by late Nick Sanderson. It's only a matter of time now before the rest of the world catches on. 


Special thanks to World of Twist (library) for keeping their legacy alive.


*****


One album wonders: Shop Assistants' Shop Assistants

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 18, 2014 07:31am | Post a Comment
SHOP ASSISTANTS - SHOP ASSISTANTS (1986) 


In this week's installment of One album wonders we look at the Scottish band, Shop Assistants. On the eve of the Scottish independence referendum they were officially named on of the Top 50 Scottish bands of all time (see Top 50 Scottish bands of all time).

The band formed in Edinburgh in 1984, originally as Buba & The Shop Assistants). The original line-up was Annabel "Aggi" Wright (vocals), David Keegan (guitar), Sarah Kneale (bass), Laura MacPhail (drums), and Ann Donald (more drums). Stephen Pastel produced, provided the artwork, and sang back-up on their debut single, “Something to Do" on the very short-lived Villa21 Records. Soon after Pastel nicked Aggi for his own Glasgow-based band, The Pastels.


Aggi's replacement was Alex Taylor and with the line-up change came a shortening of their moniker to Shop Assistants. Shop Assistants debuted with Shopping Parade EP in 1985, released on on The Subway Organization, run by Martin Whitehead of Bristol-based band The Flatmates. Its lead track, "All Day Long" was described by Morrissey as his favorite single of the year" which is the sort of endorsement that should, but never did, make a band's career.


Donald quit shortly afterward and without her the band recorded and released "Safety Net" on Keegan's own 53rd & 3rd Records. In 1986, another of their songs, "It's Up To You,” was included on the NME’s now famous scene-making C-86 cassette. 


Having achieved some independent success Shop Assistants next signed to Chrysalis Records, the Blue Guitar Records imprint of which was credited on their sole full-length album, Shop Assistants. Considering its quality, it performed surprisingly poorly commercially. In 1987, Taylor disbanded the band in and formed The Motorcycle Boy with former members of Shop Assistants and East Kilbride's second-finest, Meat Whiplash. They also proved to be one album wonders, releasing just Scarlet in 1989.


In 1990, Shop Assistants reunited -- albeit without Taylor (or Wright, for that matter). This time around original bassist Sarah Kneale assumed vocal duties and the line-up additionally included the addition of Margarita Vasquez-Ponte of Jesse Garon And The Desperadoes on drums. The new lineup released “Here It Comes” and “Big 'E' Power” in 1990 before again splitting up and after which another member (this time David Keegan) defected to The Pastels. 
*****

One album wonders: The Open Mind's The Open Mind

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 10, 2014 01:00am | Post a Comment
THE OPEN MIND - THE OPEN MIND (1969)

Around 1963, Putney-based musicians Mike "Mike Bran" Brancaccio (guitar), Phil Fox (drums), Timothy du Feu (vocals), and Ray Nye (bass) formed The Apaches, who recorded a demo with none other than Joe Meek. Nye left the band and du Feu moved to bass after they acquired a new singer, Terry Martin (real name Terry Schindler). They changed their name to The Drag Set in 1965.


Two years later the band were writing their own material and released their first and only single as The Drag Set, “Day and Night” b/w “Get Out of My Way” in early 1967 on Go. Go was a short-lived label which released mostly mod and soul music by the likes of The Barney Sisters, Carl Douglas And The Big Stampede, Neil Spence, Our Plastic Dream, Phil Brady And The Ranch Set, The Roll Movement, Samantha Juste, Scots Of St. James, and Sugar Simone.


The Drag Set realized that there might be some unintended connotations to their name and in 1968 changed it to the suitably psychedelic The Open Mind, on the suggestion of De Feu


The following May they released their first single with their new name, “Horses And Chariots” b/w “Before My Time.” In July the band released a collection of mod-tinged, leather pants heavy psych which proved to be their only LP, titled The Open Mind and released by Philips


In August of 1969, The Open Mind released a non-album single, “Magic Potion” b/w “Cast a Spell," produced by Fritz Fryer, guitarist of The Four Pennies. "Magic Potion" proved to be The Open Mind's final release, although they soldiered on until 1973, at which point Phil Fox quit. 


After that, De Feu and Schindler were joined by Stephen Florence and a new drummer and became Armada (not to be confused with Rod Torfulson's Armada Featuring Herman Menderchuck), who broke up after releasing no music.

In 1974, Schindler moved to Vancouver, Canada and opened an apparel company, Terry Schindler & Associates. De Feu sold his bass and found work in the petrochemical industry and as a graphic designer, Fox became a carpenter and at one point operated a pub, and Brancaccio continues to play guitar, albeit classical. Since 2001 The Open Mind has been released several times on compact disc by the labels Acme Records and Second Battle, both including bonus tracks.


*****

One album wonders: John's Children's Orgasm

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 3, 2014 10:20am | Post a Comment
 JOHN'S CHILDREN - ORGASM (recorded 1967, released 1971) 


Today the band John's Children, when remembered at all, are best remembered for two things: one, for having briefly included within their ranks a pre-T. Rex Marc Bolan and two, for their calculatedly outrageousness and provocative live performances. Both overshadow the fact that they also made some quite enjoyable music, including a sole LP recorded before Bolan joined but released long after he'd left.


*****


The story of John's Children begins in 1965 in Great Bookham, where drummer Chris Townson, guitarist Geoff McClelland, harmonica-player Andy Ellison, and singer Louis Grooner played in a band called The Clockwork Onions. With changing times and line-ups came changing names and The Clockwork Onions became The Few. After the departure of keyboardist Chris Dawsett The Few became The Silence, who were Andy Ellison, Chris Townson, Geoff McClelland, and John Hewlett. The Silence were described by Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell as “positively the worst group I'd ever seen” and not surprisingly he insisted on becoming their manager. 


Napier-Bell changed The Silence's name to John's Children. The band -- actually a group of session musicians -- recorded John's Children's first single, “The Love I Thought I'd Found” b/w “Strange Affair," which was released in 1966. The original title of the A-side was "Smashed Blocked" but a name change was necessitated at home because it was deemed offensive. Far from Surrey the single found a receptive audience (where it was released with its original name) in Florida and California -- two American states both known for their production and appreciation of weird, unpolished garage rock



In 1967, John's Children released their second single, “Just What You Want – Just What You'll Get” b/w “But You're Mine” was also recorded by session musicians -- something which was back then still somewhat common practice even for bands composed of technically talented but commercially unproven instrumentalists.  The single fared better than its predecessor and after the release of a "lost" third single, “Not the Sort of Girl (You'd Like to Take to Bed),” their American label, White Whale Records, requested a full-length album.

John's Children recorded Orgasm. The album kicks off with the shrill screams of young female fans. After someone pleads with the audience to stop screaming, which doesn't stop them, the band launch into "Killer Ben," which only elicits louder screaming. The album was, in fact, recorded in a studio and the audience screams were nicked from the soundtrack to The BeatlesHard Day’s Night. Toward the end of "You're a Nothing," it sounds like additional crowd noise has been lifted from a football match.

Just how the Daughters of the American Revolution heard about the planned release of such an obscure album isn't clear to me but they apparently delayed Orgasm's release until 1970. You have to wonder if it wasn't all part of another publicity stunt. Orgasm has been re-released multiple times sense, by multiple labels, on multiple formats and often bookended by additional material. 



Shortly after the Orgasm was shelved, in March of 1967, a young Marc Bolan replaced McClelland. Bolan had approached Napier-Bell in 1965, informing him that he was going to be a star but needed proper assistance. After recording some unreleased demos in 1966, rather than plug him into The Yardbirds, Napier-Bell stuck Bolan into his other band and Bolan wrote John's Children's next single, 
"Desdemona" b/w "Remember Thomas A Becket" which was banned from the airwaves for the A-side's shocking lyric, “Lift up your skirt and fly.”




John’s Children opened for The Who on their 1967 tour of Germany until they were kicked off, apparently for upstaging the headliners. Four months after joining, Bolan split quit John's Children and formed Tyrannosaurus Rex. The rest of the band soldiered on without him, recording several Bolan compositions before returning to Germany and ultimately disbanding in 1968.

The story didn't really end there, however, and Ellison and Townson next joined David O'List (formerly of The AttackThe NiceThe Misunderstood, and Roxy Music), Martin GordonPeter Oxendale, and Trevor White (who'd played in the power-pop band, The Jook, with Townson) in another one-album-wonder, Jet, who released a rather nice Sparks-ish record (titled Jet) in 1975. After Jet, Ellison, Gordon, and White went on to play in the new wave band, Radio Stars.

In the 1990s, a new line-up of John’s Children reformed with Gordon on bass and longtime Morrissey collaborator Boz Boorer on guitar. In 2001 this line-up performed at the Steve Marriott Memorial Event. A line-up of Ellison, Hewlett, Townson, and White began performing in 2006 and ended in 2008, when Townson died. 

For the John's Children fan, obtaining Orgasm is understandably the primary goal. However, of the several compilations available, Cherry Red's two-disc anthology, A Strange Affair: The Sixties Anthology, is the most comprehensive.

*****

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One album wonders: Diane Hildebrand's Early Morning Blues and Greens

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 27, 2014 01:34am | Post a Comment
DIANE HILDEBRAND - EARLY MORNING BLUES AND GREENS (1967) 

Diane Hildebrand - Early Morning Blues and Greens

It's surprisingly hard to find much information online about singer-songwriter Diane Hildebrand, who was a professional songwriter who penned numbers for none other than The Monkees and released a single, wonderful solo album in the 1960s.



Hildebrand was apparently about eighteen when one of her compositions, "I'm On My Way," was sung by singer Barbara Dane on an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour titled "The Captive Hour." Her first credit was 1964’s “He Walks Like a Man” for singer Jody Miller — a song which though only a modest hit in the US was nevertheless released in FrenchGerman, and Italian cover versions. 

 
A story about Hildebrand from a 1968 edition of Monkees Monthly

Whilst working as a staff writer at Screen Gems Music Publishing (and Colgems), Hildebrand and Jack Keller co-wrote several songs for the ABC series and band, The Monkees, including “Early Morning Blues and Greens,” “Your Auntie Grizelda,”and “Goin’ Down.” Hildebrand also wrote (with Dominic Frontiere"Felicidad" and "Paint Me a Picture" which, along with "I'm On My Way," were all featured on another ABC series, The Flying Nun.


Hildebrand recorded just one solo album, Early Morning Blues and Greens, in 1967. It was recorded at Ami Hadani and Tom Hidley's T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood, then-new and previously used by only The Animals and The Mothers of Invention. Hildebrand's album was released by Elektra and seems to have relied on a lot of in-house talend including engineer Bruce Botnick, famed for his work with Love and The Doors, co-producers David Anderle and Russ Miller, and "presenter" Jac Holzman. Musicians who participated in the album's recording include David Dawson, Fred Myrow, James Decker, Malcolm Elsensohn, Russell White, Sheridon Stokes, Tony McCashen, and Hildebrand's boyfriend, Colin Cameron, who then-lived with her in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood.



After the release of Early Morning Blues and Greens, a promo single, “Early Morning Blues And Greens” b/w “Come Looking For Me,” was released the in 1968 but doesn’t seem to have actually been much promoted. It was followed by “Jan’s Blues” b/w Early Morning Blues and Greens” which though excellent, seems to have somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. Someone at Elektra must've believed in it in Hildebrand as the album was re-released in 1968 and '69. It was finally released on compact disc in 2006 by Collectors' Choice Music.


After her single solo release Hildebrand returned to writing for others, providingsongs for country-rockers The Lewis And Clarke Expedition and Stone Country (both of them also one-album-wonders), Texas’s The Fountain of Youth, and hot-rodders The Hondells. Hildebrand’s continued collaboration with Kelly produced “Easy Come, Easy Go,” which was a hit for Bobby Sherman in 1970, and "Apple Bend" for Johnny Tillotson, which was not. In the mid-1970s, she was still composing, writing songs for "When We're Singin'" for The Partridge Family in 1974 and (with Jackie Mills) the theme for The Ghost Busters in 1975. After that trail goes cold and Hildebrand, who seems to have always shied away from the limelight, seems to have left her Hollywood life behind.



*****

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